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OP2310 Understanding and mitigating the impacts of light pollution on nocturnal pollination processes in the Mediterranean biodiversity hotspot


   Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering

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  Prof Darren Evans  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

NERC ONE Planet DTP

Moths are important but overlooked pollinators. There is growing evidence that ALAN affects moth-pollination interactions in northern Europe (e.g. Macgregor et al. 2017, 2019). The impacts of ALAN on ecosystem functioning are likely to be greater in the Mediterranean biodiversity hotspot, where research shows over 70% of caught moths in Portugal carry pollen, and in large amounts (Banza et al. 2019).

Most of southern Iberia has undergone significant land-use changes in recent decades, mostly driven by tourism-led urbanisation resulting in a significant increase in streetlighting. It is unclear how ALAN affects nocturnal insects nor moth pollen-transport networks in the Mediterranean where seasonal dynamics play an important role.

This project will disentangle the effects of land-use change and ALAN on ecological processes using a network approach. Using DNA-metabarcoding, pollen transport networks will be constructed from moths caught in lit and unlit areas in SW Portugal across a land-use gradient. Light management/technology mitigation (e.g. LED) will be tested using experimental lighting rigs. Long-term moth population trends in the Algarve will be examined using A Rocha Portugal’s (ARP) unique light-trapping dataset.

Fieldwork will be conducted in SW Portugal with A Rocha Portugal (CASE partner), with benefits including reference libraries and datasets from the region. Additional support will be provided by UKCEH & the Centre for Functional Ecology, University of Coimbra (UoC). Skills gained as part of the training include DNA-metabarcoding (NCL) and trait-based network analysis (NU, NCL & UKCEH), taxonomy and systematics (ARP, UoC), modelling, including long-term datasets (UKCEH).

Key Research Gaps and Questions:

  1. How does artifical light at night (ALAN) affect moths and pollen-transport networks in Europe’s biodiversity hotspot?
  2. What are the functional consequences of ALAN on lepidoptera life-cycles and plant reproduction?
  3. Can the impacts of ALAN be mitigated via strategic management and/or alternative technology?

Prerequisites:

Numerate student wanting to combine advanced theoretical and empirical ecology to address a global challenge. Must be willing to work cross-culturally with periods of fieldwork in Portugal. Experience of Lepidoptera trapping and identification desirable. For more information, please contact Prof. Darren Evans ([Email Address Removed]).

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